Subject: SMH: Timor genocide: the grim counting begins

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Sydney Morning Herald Thursday, Nov. 5, 1999

Timor genocide: the grim counting begins

By DAVID LAGUE, Herald Correspondent in Dili

There are 80,000 East Timorese still missing more than seven weeks after Interfet, the Australian-led international force, halted a violent rampage in the former Portuguese territory, according to estimates compiled by the peacekeeping troops.

Some United Nations officials believe the number may be closer to 200,000 but an accurate picture of the human cost of Indonesia's bloody withdrawal from East Timor may takeyears unless Indonesia allows the speedy return of refugees from West Timor and other parts of Indonesia.

The commander of Interfet, Major-General Peter Cosgrove, said yesterday he was unable to rule out the possibility that many of the missing people had met a "tragic fate".

"The number of bodies actually located by Interfet is just over 100," he said. "I can'trule anything out. The evidence is all we can go on. I just don't know. We may never know."

The UN estimates that more than 75 per cent of East Timor's population was displaced, many forcibly taken to West Timor,in the wave of destruction and violence after an overwhelming majority voted for independence from Indonesia at aballot on August 30.

Pro-Jakarta militias and their supporters in the Indonesian military were forced to halt this rampage when Interfet was deployed on September 20 but vast areas of East Timor remain empty of people.

General Cosgrove said yesterday that of a total population of 800,000 before the crisis, Interfet believed about 720,000 could be accounted for, including up to 250,000 still in West Timor and 40,000 elsewhere in Indonesia.

However, UN officials believe the total population was between 850,000 and 890,000 before the ballot, according to 1998 projections drawn from Indonesian census figures.

Confidence in these projections increased when more than 430,000 East Timorese registered to vote in the ballot.

UN officials believed that almost all eligible voters registered, and this was about the proportion of the population that could be expected to be in that age group, based on the total population estimate.

Refugees continue to trickle back into East Timor from West Timor but General Cosgrove said yesterday he was frustrated that Interfet had been unable to meet senior Indonesian officers to co-ordinate security for bringing East Timorese home.

Relations with senior Indonesian military in West Timor over border issues had become "chronic", he said.

General Cosgrove wanted a system in place so troops from each side could communicate and notify each other if they planned to operate close to the border.

He had made repeated requests for a high-level meeting so arrangements could be made for refugees to be "seamlessly" shifted across the border, with Indonesian troops guaranteeing their security up to the border, where Interfet would take over.

"Our whole intention is to reduce to nil the chances of soldiers, who are essentially doing their countries' bidding, shooting at each other, and facilitate the return of thousands of people.

"We are a modern military force. If necessary, I will provide radios on both sides of the border."


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